Photo shows a view by Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, south China, on June 11, 2020. (LI GANG / XINHUA)

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Thursday unveiled its Innovation and Technology Development Blueprint, outlining 16 targets and 42 initiatives for the next five to 10 years to boost research strengths, woo the brightest minds and deepen innovation and technology cooperation with the Chinese mainland.

The blueprint reiterates the city’s vision to develop itself into a global innovation and technology center, with a mission to promote diversified economic growth, create quality employment opportunities, improve quality of life, and also serve national needs.

The SAR government will enhance the innovation and technology ecosystem by pouring more resources into basic research projects

The SAR government will enhance the innovation and technology ecosystem by pouring more resources into basic research projects, accelerating the transformation and realization of midstream research outcomes, and supporting downstream industries like artificial intelligence and new energy, Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong told a news conference.

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To bring in top-notch tech companies, the Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau will collaborate with the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (OASES) to make use of the HK$30 billion ($3.85 billion) Co-Investment Fund and the land provided in the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, among other things, Sun said.

OASES and the Co-Investment Fund were among a string of initiatives announced by Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu in his maiden Policy Address as part of the government’s “proactive and aggressive” approach to compete for enterprises, investment and talent. 

In terms of better addressing the shortage in innovation and technology talent, the government pledged to provide more support for local universities in research and development, and encourage Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education in schools. 

“The next five to 10 years will be a crucial period for Hong Kong’s Innovation and technology development,” Sun said. “We hope to continuously listen to the opinions from different sectors of society, assisting the government to formulate the specific implementation plan for the next stage.” 

The blueprint came against the background of a significant decrease in the manufacturing sector’s contribution to Hong Kong’s GDP as the city steers toward the development of a service-oriented economy. According to the blueprint, the government will expand the local manufacturing industry, from less than 1 percent of the local GDP it represents now to 1.5 percent in five years and about 5 percent in a decade. 

Sun said the proposed GDP target is not a “conservative goal”, to realize which requires the city’s manufacturing sector to produce HK$400 billion in terms of economic output in the next 10 years. 

“We want to be ambitious but we also need to take steady steps towards the goal,” he added.

Nancy Ip Yuk-yu, president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, applauded the broad development directions and major strategies stated in the blueprint, saying innovation in science and technology is a critical growth engine for Hong Kong’s development.

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“It demonstrates the government’s vision and determination in steering ahead Hong Kong’s innovation and technology development, and is conducive to securing the trust of the public and support in Hong Kong’s advancement into an international Innovation and technology hub.”

The sentiment was echoed by Kenny Shui, research director and head of economic development at Our Hong Kong Foundation, who described the government’s determination in developing the innovation and technology sector shown in the blueprint as “unprecedented”. 

Shui said he hopes that the government will introduce more detailed measures to further attract leading tech firms, such as tax exemption schemes and direct reimbursement of research and development expenditure to enterprises. 

In a bid to tackle the pain points of intellectual property rights and off-campus work of university staff, further steps should also be taken, such as giving more favorable treatment to inventors regarding university patent ownership and revenue sharing and allowing more time for professors to conduct technology transfer activities, Shui added.